Open letter to Jairam Ramesh on POSCO project approval from the Mining Zone People's Solidarity Group

We are writing to publicly challenge your shocking decision to grant a “conditional” and yet also “final” approval to the POSCO project..

 

 and to give a go-ahead to the same Orissa government and POSCO Corporation whose violations of due process have been well documented. Objections to the project have been raised not only by the project-affected people, and by environmental and social justice groups, but also by three different expert committees appointed by your own ministry. Your action exhibits profound disrespect for democratic norms, and comes as a stab in the back of the people who will be displaced and whose livelihoods will be destroyed, people who have been peacefully opposing this project for their very survival for over five years. Your action is also a slap in the face of everyone—ranging from ordinary citizens to public intellectuals to experts, including three committees that you appointed—who have been struggling to inject a modicum of transparency and democratic process into the governance of the country.

The MoEF committees, which investigated the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in the three project-affected Gram Panchayats, found that the Orissa government had subverted the FRA by withholding relevant information and documents regarding other traditional forest dwellers in the region. Given this, your decision to approve diversion of forest land based solely on a “categorical assurance” by the Orissa government that all legally tenable FRA claims have been processed is confounding. We cannot understand why you would privilege the claims of the Orissa government over those of the people whose lives would be destroyed, especially when the same Orissa government has consistently shown utter contempt for the law, and disregard for its own citizens as is evident from its attempts to ruthlessly suppress peaceful protests against the project.

While the open invitation that you have effectively issued to the Orissa government to violate the FRA and forcibly remove people from their traditional lands is at the heart of what is wrong with your decision, there are other aspects that underscore your apparent capitulation to vested interests that are working against the welfare of the nation. We remind you that your own ministry’s expert committees have unambiguously pointed out the  following:

  • Possible submergence of the thriving Paradeep port by POSCO’s proposed captive port
  • Exacerbation of the existing water crises in the Mahanadi delta and in Keonjhar
  • Grossly undemocratic public hearings characterized by threats and intimidation
  • The inadequacy of the rapid environmental impact assessment studies

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